LIFE+ Free Fish

Gobio uranoscopus
© WWF/Stoyan Mihov

Conservation and restoration of endangered river fish species and their migratory routes in key Bulgarian Natura 2000 sites

Project description
On September 1 2013, WWF Danube – Carpathian Program Bulgaria started working on the project LIFE+ Free Fish. The project’s continuation is four years and is financed by the LIFE+ Programme, the financial instrument for the environment of the European Community.

The main expected result of Free Fish is improved status and strengthened populations of the targeted threatened and endangered six reophilic (river) fish and one mollusc (mussel) species, as well as improved conditions for them in the selected river stretches in Natura 2000 sites in the Danube River basin. New and innovative for Bulgaria and the region conservation techniques and approaches will be applied.

To achieve its target, WWF Bulgaria gathers up-to-date comprehensive scientific information covering populations of seven species of fish and invertebrates in 30 sites, covering total area of over 45 000 sq m in at least 14 Natura 2000 sites.

Furthermore, the organization surveys and assesses at least ten existing barriers in three Natura 2000 sites. Based on the surveys, WWF Bulgaria will propose measures to improve the connectivity of rivers, i.e. make the barriers passable for fish. Guidelines on the requirements for construction of fish passes will be developed. The guidelines are expected to become secondary legislation or be officialised in another form.

The next activity on the project is restocking of five fish and one mollusc species in the selected locations in two Natura 2000 sites at least: 200 specimens of Cottus gobio, 5000 specimens of Rhodeus amarus, 800 specimens of Sabanejewia balcanica, 1000 specimens of Gobio kessleri, 200 specimens of Gobio uranoscopus and 400 specimens of Unio crassus.

At least 200 m of the stream at appropriate sectors of Rusenski Lom river will be restored with a suitable bottom substrate ensuring suitable habitats of Gobio keslleri and Barbus meridionalis. Furthermore, WWF Bulgaria, in co-operation with Rusenski Lom Nature Park directorate, will construct fish pass in Rusenski Lom river which will connect a section of at least 15 km downstream to a section of 15 km upstream of the fish pass (30 km of the river will be connected and made passable). The project beneficiaries will remove two barrages on Rusenski Lom River within Lomovete Natura 2000 site. In this way the river fragmentation will be reduced – at least 10 km upstream and 10 km downstream will be connected through each barrage removal.

The results of the project Free Fish will be made available to specialized audience by preparation of report for a wide range of readers and experts to be published in scientific editions. Further public awareness will be raised by reaching directly at least 15 to 20 000 people and involving at least 30 volunteers in the project.

In addition, the environmental organization will focus the attention of the institutions and the stakeholders on the issues of longitudal river connectivity, river fragmentation and reophilic fish species conservation through creation of forums for extensive discussions with national and international experts and production of guidelines on fish passes. Thus will be designed an online fishermen community and a river watchers network.

WWF Bulgaria will also organize a national information tour.

The results of LIFE+ Free Fish project will be assessed after the end of the activities by follow-up monitoring of the river zones where conservation activities have been conducted.
© EU
LIFE Programme of the European Commission
© EU
© EU
Natura 2000
© EU
© Rusenski Lom Nature Park
Rusenski Lom Nature Park
© Rusenski Lom Nature Park
© Coca-Cola
The project is co-financed by the Coca-Cola Company
© Coca-Cola
© Michael Otto Stiftung
The project is co-financed by Michael Otto Foundation
© Michael Otto Stiftung

Project data:

Project title: Conservation and restoration of Natura 2000 rheophilic fish species and their migratory routes in key SCIs in Bulgaria.

Project acronym: LIFE FREE FISH.

Project number: LIFE12 NAT/BG/001011.

Project duration: 1 September 2013 to 30 September 2017.

Total project budget: 411,057 Euro.

Total eligible project budget: 411,057 Euro.

EU financial contribution requested: 205,528 Euro (= 50.00% of total eligible budget).

WWF's financial contribution is provided by: Coca Cola Company and Michael Otto Foundation.

Name of the coordinating beneficiary: WWF - Worldwide Fund for Nature Danube - Carpathian programme Bulgaria.

Name of the associated beneficiary: Directorate of Nature Park Rusenski Lom.